He carves words with his fingernails.
He speaks clearly into the silence
Of his unspeakable taboo that has,
For nearly a decade now,
Been my private madness and my chain.
Freighted with the gates he could not bear, I
Have bent, broken, stormed, left, returned:
Built and destroyed, the archetype of rage
And of patience: your mother, you made me.
Your conscience. Your water-carrier:
You drank your tears from my eyes. You
Loved that I could weep them. You loved me as
A fragile tempest of brittle critical Woman.
And then – did you wonder that
As your mother, I could no longer touch you
As your conscience, was silent reproach,
As your tear-carrier, tried to make you cry,
And tried to refuse them all: to be an I.
With splintered nails, his fingers pry the seals
Of the black tomb where he’s laid his living dreams.
You have folded me, the origami of your needs
To not know, not look, not feel
And used my tensile strength to make your curving shapes
And I, the perfect pitcher for such never-had-plans:
I, oh I feel, I want, I plan, I dream,
I hope, aspire, storm, conquer, fail,
And you – perpetual winner as self-sacrificial keel
To such a fragile tempest of bitter, critical Woman
Who, while you gladly swell support, must
Feel, demand, plan, storm, take on all the conquering, and fail,
Who in clay-footed refusing ingratitude, must
No longer touch you, breathe silent reproach,
Make you cry, deny, and I
Have bent, broken, stormed, left, returned
And tried to refuse it all: to be an I –
You, accepting selfless stable calm, win.
While I lose. I lose, I lose, I lose
My own free-flowing strength
The stable self that I can be tempest-tossed
Safe in the heart of a current that is mine alone,
The freedom to feel and feel carefree,
To be bohemian and even to tear up lists,
To slap paint on walls and not live in caution,
And you say, Do, do, I would love it,
Riding my freedom and polishing walls,
Running in with paint sheets lest I spill a drop,
Saying, Be free, be free, don’t worry about me,
Until I am so hemmed in with being the fulfilment of your desires,
That I can no longer find my own.
He speaks, surprisingly clear and deep, as if
All this time he has known it is his, of
What has been my private madness and my chain:
His inadmissible silence, reproachful forgiving taboo.
I stare through time and aerial roots
At the words that pry my bars:
That the chainmail I have fought and worn
May lift. Which I could carry or leave,
Though I’ve fought now for years to do neither:
And I stare, through a clock and a pot plant,
At words that are not spoken to me,
At words that have nothing to do with me.
This is not about me. This is not where I speak.
To speak at this point would be to be
That demanding bitch you made for your uses –
As the cracked and rusted steel is lifting
From shoulders that bore it for too long.
I want you to see that I’ve carried you here,
That I am here. That this might be my freedom, too.
That when you unlock the gates of your gaol,
Not all the prisoners were you.
I dare not speak these words. I jut, still,
Buy the burden of your silence with my
Unsaid selves, and hide the impatient desires
That might disrupt your precious, precious process
Of which we cannot ever, ever speak
Until you do. Surprisingly clear and deep.
As if it were nothing to do with me.
Which it isn’t – never was – except, you made it so.
Face to Face
We need to have a word – I’m ushered to crouch on his broken chair
He steeples himself on the far side of his desk
Sweat smudged phone and fingered files are pushed aside – except mine.
I’ve been monitoring your… figures machined out in time for the chat
No conclusions of course, but I sense a …
He leans back to await my rejoinder… I count his grin-flashed broken teeth.
He is tying a noose with a spare piece of string.
Proceeds to open me up as he learnt on his course… a general question
Do you think the world is about to end? We talk timing and targets
He funnels down to a list of my sins… No names – no pack drill but it’s all in your appraisal
After a frank exchange we talk of redemption… I mention reward he leans forward
and sneers: You’re no angel… It’s then I tell him I have had a better offer.
He tells me to go to hell.
In Waiting (Head and Neck)
Weighed-in then seated
in small squares arranged to engender…
We share a delay-grumble out loud.
Inside all of us – fear fracks a quake -
but it’s curtained with a smile,
or chattered away with a brought-in friend – until
a warm welcome picks on each of us to move knife-nearer.
My gripped book is never opened, so many faces to read.
Up to the nines for the occasion.
He has his Telegraph for grim read
they sit together a page-turn apart,
until he folds it to a pocket-stuff.
Final arrangements to be reviewed;
she precision-lists, through crimped lips,
marshalling even flowers in a vase.
He niggles her consenting – notes second signing
lets students see what’s in her throat.
A chink of handcuffs raises eyes just briefly -
a man is blue-uniformed into a corner. His
half-a-head tumour earns him a knowing nod.
Young heads bowed to their handhold, whispering their faith in radiation.
I can’t see who bears the wound, then hear her lisping. Tear-jerk caught
as we all stare at the bright-through-the-window sky.
Chair bangs, door swings – an old man’s slump is wheeled in:
Dear you look so well! a nurse reassures his ear.
He gums a reply, knowing he won’t be going home.
One day, while on my way to work
My mind full of things that I need to do
and things that I have already said and done,
were they right or were they wrong,
That is the question.
Could I have done or said things better,
and who exactly am I, anyway,
and what am I really doing here on planet Earth?
and where is my life going,
and many other such thoughts, concerns,
little worries and delicious visions
of all the things that could be
if I get things right This Time:
Round and round in my brain,
Keeping in time with my hurrying feet.
I need to drink less fresh coffee in the mornings
And I need to press the pause button now,
To catch my breath, to find my feet,
to connect my head which has run off
and is living very happily in a
future time of visions fulfilled
(I think it’s called daydreaming, which doesn’t sound as grand as it feels)
When I turned
and around a corner
on a different path
I saw a sight that caused all my thoughts
to come tumbling down,
Like a house of cards blown by breath
It was Autumn in its full glory
Golden leaves, freshly blown by yesterday’s storm
making the path a carpet of rich gold
And I, like the Queen of Sheba,
treading a royal highway
The sun shining bright as a midsummer’s day
The sky a clear sapphire blue
I stopped and just drank in this sight,
Realising that really all was well
My feet on the ground,
head back on my shoulders,
and all of my together for the first time that morning
In this one glorious, golden present moment
Whole, connected and at peace
with myself and the Universe.